I was a victim of a terrorist attack.
My name is Emily Taylor, I am currently 18, from Liverpool and I attended my favourite singers concert on the 22nd of May 2017. Ariana is possibly my favourite person in the world, apart from my friends and family. I’ve loved her since 2009/10 culminating with a follow on Twitter 6 years ago. I could gush over Ariana for years, talk about how I am comfortable in my own skin because of her and how I stopped listening to bullies because of her. But let's be honest, that's not what this article's about. This article is an insight to my experience that night and the aftermath.
After seeing such a wonderful performance my cousin and I, just 14, picked up our stuff to go. I suggested we waited until everyone had gone to avoid the large queues but never in my life have I been so happy that I decided this. An arena full of people, from all stages of life, who were filled with excitement after such an amazing show suddenly went quiet. A bang came from the left side of the arena. Everyone's head turned and no one made a sound, at least that's what it felt like to me.
After the longest 5 seconds of my entire life, screams echoed across the arena, children and adults alike scared for their life, running towards the exits on our side, the safe side. I didn't think, I grabbed my phone, told my cousin to grab me, and I called my Mum.
I don't want to go into any more detail about what happened, but we both made it out okay and found my Mum waiting outside the arena.
The day after the concert I went to sixth form as usual, which actually shocked pretty much everyone I knew. No-one expects you to be in school the day after being present at a terrorist attack. It was hard, not because I was in shock, or traumatised, but because people thought it would be okay to stare and gawk at me. I'm a human, yes I was there.
Lets. Move. On.
Another thing I personally found hard when attending school was that people wouldn't stop talking about it. I understand why, it was a big thing here in Liverpool, but it still upset me when people would speak about it really loudly and not take my emotions into consideration. This went on for a while but finally died down.
One Love Concert
Yes I attended the one love concert, for free, with my mum this time as she was more anxious about the event than I was, and although I was almost 18 at that point she still wanted to be there with me in case.
I'm going to be honest, the one love concert did not help me, not one bit. In fact it made me worse. Like I loved seeing Ariana Grande again, she is my favourite person possibly ever, and seeing Miley Cyrus fulfilled a repressed childhood dream of mine of seeing Hannah Montana but I couldn't see the stage, I was behind that big tower with the screen on because too many people applied for front standing.
Then when the concert ended, that's what really impacted me. The lights came back on and people started heading towards the exit. I felt sick, I had never been so anxious in my entire life. I was terrified, what if it happened again? I wasn't okay until I was sat in my car, seat belt secured and my phone charging.
I didn't realise how much the OLM had affected me, not until I went into work the following weekend.
I work in McDonald's, yes as a vegetarian, and I love it. I have friends, good pay and I enjoy what I do, but after this concert, I wasn't myself. I wasn't smiling, I was trying to be friendly but I felt so drained, my head was not in it.One of my managers ended up sending me home after 1 hour and 45 minutes. I felt so bad and so guilty, I'd let down the team.
They suggested I get sick leave and I did, for a month, I focused on my website and my exams but I felt so guilty. I'm attending the work day out to Blackpool yet I feel as though I'm not allowed to go. I kind of have the underlying fear that I'm going to be fired. Who knew attending the second concert would have caused all this paranoia and hassle. I did go back to work after the 4 weeks off and I was fine.
People don't understand what it feels like, how certain things that seem small can be a big deal. For example, one of my best friends who I love and adore, went to see a concert and she sent loads of people snapchats of it. Obviously these photos really got to me, not because I was worried something would happen but because they just reminded me of things that happened and they were really upsetting me. But when i asked her to stop, as she hadn't been in this situation she didn't understand as to why these harmless photos bothered me so much.
Sometimes it's not easy to explain to people why you feel the way you feel. It could be because they won't listen, or because you feel odd or wrong telling them the truth. Sometimes, you just need to be patient.
Some people assume how you feel. "Oh you'll be feeling stressed and down." or "I know how hard it must be to be in school". Do not assume you know how someone feels. I can't assume how anyone else who attended feels. That's because everyone is different and takes things differently. Speaking to others really helped me understand this, we all experienced different things, some of my friends had nightmares about what happened, but I never did
Sometimes, I felt like I shouldn't be here, this was the worst feeling. I had walked out of such a horrible attack with not a single physical scar, not a scratch while people lost their lives. It wasn't fair and I felt responsible, why them? This is a feeling I still get to this day, I can't help it and I know I shouldn't feel like this, I am allowed to be here and to be okay.
Arianators (fans of Ariana Grande) from across the globe have been holding meetups in remembrance of those who lost their life. Those of us in Liverpool held one on the 9th July 2017, set up by two amazing girls who organised the whole thing, bought food and brought so many people together. Before the meetup happened, we created group chats with all those attending or wanting to. Personally, this helped me as those people had been through the exact experience I had so I felt more comfortable talking to these teenage strangers, than I did anyone else.
I went to another meetup, a larger one in Manchester after my 18th birthday on August 10th, this one was live streamed on Facebook by I Love Manchester. It was very emotional but it really helped myself and others. We had a lot of people to talk to, different experiences and different stories.
It has been over 9 months now, previously on all the 22nd's I would be sad or emotional but on February 22nd, it was the first time since the attack where I was actually okay, I had fun with my friends and I wasn't focused on what had happened.
Although I will never get over what happened, I am very proud of the progression I have made since the attack. I have learnt how important it is to speak to others who have went through the same thing, like TWE, and the importance of being kind to others.
And now it’s May, it has almost been a year and by the time this is up it will have passed. I have been granted the day off University May 22nd, I instead get to spend the day surrounded by my best friends, people I love more than anything who have been through the same as me. I get to turn a day I dreaded into a day I can’t wait for, a day I get to enjoy and spend with my best friends.